Daylily – Hemerocallis

Large-flowered hybrids. If you are looting for beautiful, colourful flowers which are easy to grow, the daylily is the plant for you. As the name suggests, each bloom lasts for one day only, but every cluster has several buds which open in succession.



March-early May:

On the poorest soils apply a dressing of general fertilizer according to the maker’s instructions. Look out for slug damage. Divide and replant congested clumps and set out new plants.



Early species and cultivars start to bloom. Water regularly during periods of drought.



Late species and cultivars are blooming. Late October-November: Divide and replant overgrown clumps and set out new plants. Mulch in cold areas.



Sow seeds in pots or pans and place in a cold frame or greenhouse.

Spring is the usual time to do this, but germination is often better if you sow the seed as soon as it is ripe or in autumn or winter. When the plantlets have three to five leaves, either pot singly or set outside in nursery rows.

Plants can also be raised from seed, although named cultivars do not come true to type (do not look the same as the parent plants). Sow in pans or boxes of a proprietary potting compost, spacing the seeds 2cm apart and 1cm deep.


Although the wild species have smaller, less colourful blooms than the hybrids, some are well worth growing. Best known is H.fulva with flowering stems 80-100cm high and buff to rusty-orange blooms 10cm or more long.

H.fulva ‘Flore Pleno’ produces semi-double flowers tinted red and copper. H. lilioasphodelus (H.flava) has narrower leaves and smaller, light yellow fragrant flowers.

Neater and smaller is

H. dumortieri. This has orange-yellow blooms from darker buds on stems 35-45cm high.


Variety, Colour ‘Burning Daylight’, luminous, deep orange ‘Stella d’Oro’, canary yellow, orange throats ‘Marion Vaughn’, lemon yellow ‘George Cunningham’, orange-pink ‘Stafford’, deep red ‘Cherry Cheeks’, light, bright red ‘Little Grapette’, maroon-purple ‘Catherine Woodbury’, lavender and pink ‘Pink Charm’, pink ‘Luxury Lace’, cream, lavender and pink ‘Nashville’, yellow and red ‘Franz Hals’, yellow and rich orange

There are about 15 species of daylily, mostly native to eastern Asia. It is a clump-forming plant with flowers in branched clusters above the foliage.

The commonly grown Hemerocallis fulva and H. lilioasphodelus were introduced over 300 years ago. They became so well naturalized in Europe that some people mistakenly think they are truly wild.

Modern hybrids

Since the early 1900s daylilies have received the attention of plant breeders in Britain, Europe and especially the USA. About 20,000 cultivars have been registered to date. These come in a wide variety of sizes and colours, in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, lavender, purple, ivory and white. In some cultivars the petals are bicoloured.

The most recent cultivars produce a succession of buds, so prolonging the flowering period. Hundreds of named hybrids are available and their popularity changes from year to year.


Buy container-grown plants from a garden centre in late spring, when the foliage is well grown. Choose the largest specimens with firm, bright green leaves.

Ornamental uses

Daylilies lend themselves to a variety of situations in the garden. They look spectacular in an island bed (one surrounded by lawn) planted entirely with daylilies in a selection of contrasting colours. You can achieve more subtle effects by planting groups between shrubs or other perennials. The shmbs should have already bloomed so that their foliage alone provides a pleasing green background for the daylily flowers.


Division is the main way of increasing the plant.

Day lily


Ideally in full sun, though up to half-day shade is tolerated, especially by the wild species. Protect from strong, cold winds.


Can grow in quite poor soil, but best if rooting area is moist but well drained and reasonably fertile. If soil is thin, sandy or chalky, dig in a 3-4cm layer of leaf-mould, compost or manure.


Remove deadheads and flowering stems in late autumn. Just before planting apply a proprietary general fertilizer according to the maker’s instructions.



Full sun or, 35-100cm, partial shade depending on , species or cultivar.


May-August Well-drained; , reasonably fertile.


In areas where winters are colder than average, mulch the plants in autumn with straw or dead leaves to protect the crown and root system.

For a splash of summer colour, plant differently coloured daylilies in a perennial border or island bed in the lawn.


Daylilies are seldom troubled by pests and diseases. Slugs and snails can cause damage in wet springs and on damp soils. Regularly apply slug bait or put down a beer trap.

Sometimes cutworms (soil-dwelling caterpillars) eat the roots and weaken the plants.

If this happens, drench the soil with insecticide formulated to kill caterpillars.

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